Monday, December 07, 2015

Ask JKM a Question: Too Much Star Wars Hype?

A regular reader, Sean, writes:

"As we near the release of Star Wars Episode Seven, I share your confusion and ambivalence about the title Force Awakens. and I feel Star Wars Mania gripping the nation.

I recently stopped by my local Target and realized I couldn't look in ANY department without spying Star Wars Force Awakens merchandise there. I don't mean just Shirts and Toys, but plates, groceries, stationary, and well everything!

I was too young to properly notice or appreciate this Tour de Force when Episode 1 was released back in 1999, but now I find it at the same time both exciting and a little disheartening. The child in me is just excited to see the magic happening again, the adult in me eager to step back into that magical place the movies took me on my first time around. 

But there is a third part of myself that has already grown to detest that bright Red and Black logo, who flinches and rolls his eyes at the sheer pointlessness of a Vader shower head, and is somehow offended by the sheer garishness of it all. 

I was wondering what your opinion was on the current Star Wars mania and is it coloring or influencing your anticipation for the film? 

Also, is there a way an honest fan can enter the coming film with the correct amount of anticipation?

Sean, those are some amazing observations and questions.

I am very much looking forward to The Force Awakens, and hoping it will be great. 

I do have my expectations firmly in check, however, because over the years I've realized that, well, I'm just not a little kid any more.  

No film can ever make me feel exactly the way I felt when I first saw Star Wars.  

Why? I was 7 years old.  

That doesn't mean there is no joy or wonder to be had at the movies anymore. I came out of Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) invigorated by its presentation, and the possibilities of its world, for example.

But even that was an adult reckoning.

Going in with the expectation that a film made today -- in this corporate, homogenized movie environment -- will somehow transform my life, at 46 years old, is a certain path to the Dark Side.  

I have seen Star Wars fans turn angrily on George Lucas because, somehow, he couldn't re-create for them that amazing, cherished experience they had in youth.  

They don't understand the truth: it's not Star Wars that really changed.  It's them.  They grew up.

So I'm not certain why the same fans would suddenly believe that J.J. Abrams can accomplish what George Lucas did not. I guess because Abrams is promising the mother-of-all-nostalgia trips.  "Chewie, we're home..."

What do I want and desire from the film?

I hope the movie is coherent, joyful (in J.J. Abram's words), and exciting. 

I hope it has something to tell us about the world we live in today, while also transporting us to one of the most fascinating fantasy worlds of all time. 

I hope The Force Awakens meaningfully reacquaints us with characters we love, and introduces us to new ones who are love-worthy and can carry the torch forward.

That's it.  That's all the movie has to do.

I don't anticipate, expect, or need the film to be The Second Coming.  

My recommendation would be for other fans to take that stance too. Enjoy the moment, enjoy the return of Star Wars, but leave behind your personal, sacrosanct memory from 1977.

My honest opinion about the mania and merchandising jibes with your own.  It is garish; distasteful.  

I can't watch any medium (even YouTube) without seeing Star Wars Walmart commercials, or Star Wars HP commercials all the bloody time. I can't surf the net without seeing a new theory, a new tidbit, a new promotional clip, a new night-show appearance every day, every hour, every minute.

I just don't need that much Star Wars.  Nobody does, frankly.

It's a turn off, frankly. It makes me less inclined, not more inclined, to buy into the mania.  It turns the magic into marketing.

Part of the thrill of the original Star Wars, again, back in 1977, was the feeling of discovery behind it; the feeling that you had stumbled upon something amazing that even the studio itself didn't realize was so great.  

Yes, I loved (and continue to love) the toys too...they were incredible. Today, many of them have spots of honor in my home office.

But in 2015, Star Wars seems to be less about the movie -- or even toys -- than it is about selling audiences a fully-branded, never-ending "lifestyle" experience.  This means we get spoon-fed the teasers, trailers, and clips. This means we get teased the next chapter, and the next standalone movie too. This means we get Star Wars Day at merchant sites and stores.

If the movie ends with a post-credits scene, I know it means, too, that this Star Wars -- whatever its merits -- is also a corporate sell-out; that the actual movie is not nearly so important as dangling the carrot of what comes next.

So I guess there is one more thing I want from The Force Awakens. 

I want it to be a movie first; a vehicle for selling Darth Vader shower heads second.  

I guess that's an expectation I carry with me.

The presence of a post-credits scene will be a good test, won't it?  

If this work of art ends by trying to queue us up for excitement over the next installment, then, finally, the mania matters more than the movie.  I'll be sad and disappointed if that's the case.

Don't forget to ask me your questions at


  1. John nice answer to the STAR WARS. It is an age old fact you can't go home again. With only three television networks and UHF stations '77 was a much more less complicated time for a child. You and I have the wonderful memories of being boys in 1977 and first experiencing this new film from American Graffiti director George Lucas called STAR WARS, not Episode IV:A New Hope[in the Summer of '77], just Star Wars. The closest thing to that film craze was JAWS in 1975. Albeit, Star Wars was special to all us children because it was a space fantasy. I was just coming off the end of my favorite space-based series two year run SPACE:1999(1975-1977) so Star Wars(1977) was a welcome arrival.
    Your answer is perfect today on December 7th, besides being Pearl Harbor Day, for me as a boy in 1979 Friday December 7th was when I saw STAR TREK:THE MOTION PICTURE(1979) on it's release date. It was the first film and recaptured all the glory of the original series and animated series. I was a boy and will never forget the awe I felt and the majestic beauty of the refit Enterprise. I have seen all the Star Trek films and will continue to, but none recapture my boyhood emotion. Like the Star Trek films, I will see STAR WARS:THE FORCE AWAKENS not to recapture that wonderful Summer of '77, but to simply enjoy a good film that I have fandom for.

    May The Force Be With You.


  2. I have to admit that seeing EMPIRE STRIKES BACK May 1980, six months after Star Trek:The Motion Picture December 1979, I did feel the excitement of STAR WARS(1977) all over again. Since I was still a boy, albeit three years older, I guess that is why.


  3. Thank you for answering my query in such a graceful, adroit, and emotional manner sir. I knew you were the one to write to. I'll keep those expectations firmly placed in my mind,and will continue to roll my eyes at the commercialization.(hitting this close to the Christmas Season its a timely reminder, and if Christmas can be enjoyed for itself then so can this film!)

    Happily, I find that perhaps the film has passed the first test, no post-credits scene:

    So at least there's that.
    Thanks again for your kind words, I feel excited for the film all over again, and look forward to enjoying it for the right reasons, freed from the hype and hoopla. Cheers John!

  4. John,
    Excellent question, excellent answer.
    Today I was surfing my usual geek sites on the net, and they all had spoilers or wannabe spoilers, and I wondered aloud if I'd have to vacate the interwebs until after I've seen The Force Awakens.
    I can't even imagine The Empire Strikes Back being released today. We'd know the ending before we even saw the film. It makes me more grateful to have seen Star Wars when there was no internet.
    Actually, I think being older than we were when we saw Star Wars for the first time is only part of the answer. I've tried to get into many of the Star Wars series, such as The Clone Wars or Rebels, and they really do feel like they were written by a computer program. Lines such as "They're coming in too fast," "There's too many of them," "The Force is strong with this one," "I have a bad feeling about this"...all of these are repeated and recycled ad nauseam, ad infinitum. I see the same light saber battles, the same X-wing/TIE fighter battles, the same bodies and objects being tossed around by The Force, and at some point I am left with the feeling that originality is not something we're ever going to see from Star Wars again.
    Even the trailer for the December 18th release is packed with stuff I've seen before.
    I really, really want to like the film. I hope to be surprised and delighted. I hope to see a mixture of old and new, and not bits I've seen a million times.
    Like you, I've tempered my expectations.
    Besides, these films are for the kids of this generation, not us. Seeing it through their eyes for the first time...THAT, I feel, will be the true magic of Star Wars for our generation.

  5. Anonymous5:09 AM

    I am too young to have been at the premiere but I remember the excitement when I saw the first film on TV in the 90's. I have actively avoided Star Wars news and other things this year. Yes, I watched the trailers but they had very little to give. Maybe I'll go see the movie in a theater, or maybe I'll just buy the DVD later. Nevertheless, space fantasy is a genre I know I enjoy. John, what you said is spot-on, we have changed during the years.


  6. Tell me more of this "Darth Vader shower head" ...and where I might purchase such an item.

    1. haha! Cannon, I see your intrigued.^^ While I walk past the item every day at my local Target, its also readily available on amazon.

      I do wonder what the "lifetime warranty" entails...

  7. I have to say that this mania is getting pretty close to the levels we saw in 1999 for "The Phantom Menace". But it felt to me that the 99 mania started about earlier. I remember merchandizing being just about everywhere on January 1st 1999. For this film it seems like it's been building slowly but surely. And yeah, right now it is at fever pitch (Dodge Truck Star Wars ads?!?)

    I'm going in with measured expectations. I think Abrams was the right pick for this film. But I'm really hoping it won't be 2 hours of pandering to old school fans. Some of the trailers haven't assured me of that. I just want a good story, fun characters and a few old friends.

    Oh and John Williams to knock another Star Wars score out of the park. I'm not a prequel fan, but the music was consistently awesome for all six films.